A study published in the journal, BMJ, has reported that a vegetarian diet may reduce the risk of diverticular disease. Diverticular disease includes diverticulosis — presence of small pouches in the colon, and diverticulitis. Diverticulitis is often associated with painful symptoms symptoms, like painful abdominal cramps, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea, and may last for a few hours to a week or more.
According to the study results, vegetarians have a 30% less chance of developing diverticular disease, when compared to others who eat meat. In this study, the risk of diverticular disease was compared among 47,033 adults, 15,459 of which were vegetarians. After 11 years of the study period, 812 people were reported to have developed diverticular disease, which resulted in 806 hospital admissions and six deaths. Among those reported, vegetarians were less likely to develop this condition, as per the study.
The results also recorded that people who had a diet rich in fiber had a lower risk of being admitted to the hospital or death due to the disease, when compared to those people who had lesser amounts of fiber a day. “These findings support the recommendations that people should have more intake of fiber-rich foods, including whole wheat breads, whole-grain cereals, fruits, and vegetables," said Francesca Crowe, a nutritional epidemiologist at the University of Oxford.
“One can prevent the occurrence of diverticular diseases and other conditions by the modification of the diet," said David J. Humes and Joe West of Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust in Nottingham, U.K. “But more evidence has to be accumulated before this dietary modification can be made a recommendation," adds Humes.
Richard Desi, MD, a gastroenterologist at the Melissa L. Posner Institute for Digestive Health and Liver Disease at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, feels that fiber is the key to prevent diverticular disease. “The amount of fiber obtained through a vegetarian diet is more and hence one tends to think that the risk is lesser," adds Desi. Fiber in the food increases the movement of food in the colon and decreases the risk of developing diverticulosis. The rates of diveticulosis are high in U.S and U.K; therefore, the condition is sometimes referred to as the disease of Western civilization.
Robynne Chutkan, MD, a gastroenterologist at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C, also agrees to this. She feels that a high fiber, plant-based food is like a broom that cleans the colon. Plant-based fibers like kale, nectarine and cabbage are really good compared to muffins and granola, she adds. High-fiber diet can also prevent the recurrence of diverticulitis if there is already a history of the disease.
Anthony Starpoli, MD, a gastroenterologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, also agrees to the importance of fiber and often recommends a high-fiber diet to his patients who have a history of diverticulitis.